Jack Fawcett takes us through another week at Holyrood, including the Legislative Consent Memorandum on coronavirus, the Consumer Scotland Bill and the Agriculture (Retained EU Law and Data) Bill.
Coronavirus and the Scottish Parliament:
This week, the coronavirus continues to radically reshape how we conduct our daily lives, and in turn, how the Scottish Parliament will conduct its daily business. The First Minister gave a briefing to the media on Sunday with regards to the ongoing outbreak, and, as of Monday, 499 people have tested positive for the virus in Scotland, with 14 people confirmed to have died as a result. The outbreak continues to have an impact on the day-to-day running of the Scottish Parliament, including reduced Committee member and witness numbers, and regular changes to the Parliamentary Business calendar. With appeals from the First Minister for citizens to “do the right thing – for yourselves, for your loved-ones and for your community”, it is clear the crisis has begun to radically transform policymaking in Scotland and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
The introduction of the Coronavirus Bill 2019-21 to the UK Parliament last week signalled a shift towards even greater co-operation between Westminster and devolved administrations to tackle the outbreak. The Bill seeks to provide the Scottish Government with the power to “bring more health professionals and social workers into the workforce, relax regulations to ease the burden on frontline staff, and take steps to help slow the spread of the virus.” The Health & Sport Committee will hear evidence from Jeane Freeman tomorrow, while the Finance & Constitution Committee will hear evidence on the legislative consent memorandum and consider a draft response to the Bill. The Scottish Parliament will scrutinise the Bill across the calendar on Tuesday.
Consumer Scotland Bill:
Stage 3 proceedings of the Consumer Scotland Bill will take place this Wednesday in Holyrood. The Bill aims to establish a new body called Consumer Scotland to provide advice, represent consumer views, and organise research, information and investigations into consumer issues.
Further Bills & Committees:
Key legislative and Committee activity will also take place this week, despite the ongoing crisis continuing to refocus the Parliamentary calendar on a daily basis. The Economy, Energy & Fair Work Committee will hear evidence on the coronavirus from Fiona Hyslop on Tuesday, and the Education & Skills Committee will hear evidence from John Swinney on Wednesday. The Stage 1 debate and Financial Resolution on the Agriculture (Retained EU Law and Data) (Scotland) Bill will take place on Thursday.
First Ministers Questions & Looking Ahead:
Nicola Sturgeon is expected to face an interesting FMQs this week, both in light of the coronavirus outbreak, the acquittal of Alex Salmond for sexual assault charges, and the ongoing challenges surrounding the First Minister’s alleged prior knowledge of those incidents, and the subsequent war between the two camps. Uncertainty lies at the heart of the coronavirus pandemic, therefore as normative rules become rewritten, our analysis of Scottish politics will need to adapt at a faster rate. The policy implications of a pandemic will continue to develop as the Scottish and UK Government’s re-allocate resources to frontline services, and the effects of isolating the public come to fruition – all we can do is brace ourselves.